The documentary “Britain’s Housing Crisis: What Went Wrong?” is a raw and angry examination of the current state of housing in the country.
The housing crisis in Britain is fueled by intense anger. I haven’t seen a documentary so openly furious and unwavering in its perspective in a long time. However, this does not mean it is biased. The filmmakers’ outrage has led them to carefully utilize government and other sources to explain policies, as well as the reasoning behind decisions that have had negative consequences, which have been confirmed by activists and workers from organizations like Shelter. If it weren’t for the fact that the subject matter is about people becoming homeless due to inadequate investment in social housing and mismanagement of the property market by past governments, as well as the greed and corruption of certain housebuilders, one might be tempted to grab some popcorn and enjoy the cathartic release.
The current version of the two-part movie will evoke bitter memories before leaving you in disbelief. As the second hour progresses, which delves into topics such as the right-to-buy bill and the scandal involving leasehold homes, as well as other instances of corruption by those in positions of power who control the well-being of everyday individuals, you will likely feel a sense of hopelessness.
The passage explores the promises of providing accessible home ownership, the availability of affordable loans, the surge in property prices during the late 1990s, and the transformation of homes from a place to live and raise a family to assets that can be bought and sold for financial gain.
The show then takes a slower pace to explain the impact of this change: fewer people owning houses as a new class of landlords emerged, causing housing prices to rise and creating a gap between typical wages and the ability to afford homeownership. This led to an increase in rental demand and prices. As a result, the demand for social housing also increased when individuals were unable to secure rental options.
The program effectively presents a timeline of events, discussing the causes and consequences in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. It covers the 2008 economic crisis and the impact of quantitative easing, which was implemented to prevent a collapse in property values and protect homeowners. The use of minimal figures is effective, and the visual representation of house price increases on an electricity meter-like counter further emphasizes the key points.
The film presents a wealth of well-organized and effectively conveyed information (although I do believe that any appearance by Michael Gove should be prefaced with a warning before the credits). However, two specific aspects stand out. First, the film is dedicated to highlighting the interconnectedness of all aspects of the market and the impact of government policies on different demographics. It also sheds light on the often overlooked role of housebuilders in the crisis, including their practices of land banking, prioritizing profits over timely construction, and producing subpar homes. The film thoroughly examines these issues, including the scandal surrounding leasehold homes.
The show’s second aspect is its willingness to step back and examine issues from a broader viewpoint. An example of this is the Battersea regeneration project, where the original promise of 636 affordable homes from the private consortium was reduced to 386, with only 250 currently built due to financial reasons. This project serves as a demonstration of how private sector solutions are not suitable for addressing the public housing crisis. The show also delves deeper, allowing various activists to express their belief that the only way to understand the property market and social housing is to acknowledge that the Conservative party (specifically) has no intention of creating a fair playing field, reversing the trend of a small number of people becoming wealthy at the expense of the majority who pay taxes, and does not see it as the government’s responsibility to provide housing for its citizens.
This is excellent, intense work. So, what is our next step?
The BBC Two program “Britain’s Housing Crisis” is now available for streaming on BBC iPlayer.